Hear the right way to acquire customers with Cube and Mayfield on TechCrunch Live • TechCrunch


Finance people live and breathe spreadsheets, Mayfield’s Rajeev Batra was telling me. We were talking about our upcoming TechCrunch Live event featuring him and Cube’s Christina Ross, and Rajeev was explaining how he sees Cube’s position in the marketplace. Christina Ross co-founded the company in 2018 in a bid to provide a solution to CFOs who rely on spreadsheets but could benefit from modern data analysis, reporting, and collaboration. Now, some five years later, Cube is finding success and has raised over $45 million from venture capital.

I hope you can join us on this TechCrunch Live event on February 8 at 11:30 a.m. PST/2:30 p.m. EST. Christina Ross learned early on in Cube’s history that the solution must meet the customer where they’re at. Cube’s solution is unique in the FP&A world, in that it’s not trying to replace spreadsheets but rather work alongside spreadsheets. This gives her a unique take on finding product market fit — Cube isn’t trying to force customers to abandon their current solution.

We’re going to talk about Cube’s approach to customer acquisitions and finding product market fit, and why Christina’s favorite childhood toy was a cash register.

Register Here

Questions I want to ask

  • How did Cube so quickly acquire customers even though the company had yet to build a product?
  • Cube has countless competitors, so how does the company stay ahead of the curve?
  • What are some best practices for selling into an underserved market?
  • What personal qualities did Mayfield see in Christina Ross that led them to invest, and what’s a good founder fit for Mayfield?

And I want you to ask questions too!

Join the live event on Hopin, and ask questions in the chat. I’ll do my best to ask them when possible. Can’t make the live event but can listen to the replay/podcast? Tweet at me, and I’ll be sure to ask your questions.

Want to get feedback on your pitch during the show?

Pitch Practice is back! Apply to present your company using this form. We’ll select three companies to pitch during the show, including one wildcard company that will be selected from our Hopin audience during the episode.

Apply for TCL Pitch Practice


Source link

read more

Warner Bros. swiped our Harry Potter wand IP, says Kano • TechCrunch


Kano, the venture-backed U.K. startup known for its build-your-own computer kits and software for teaching coding and associated STEM skills, has accused Warner Bros. of copying one of its products and infringing on its intellectual property (IP).

The product in question is the Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand that Warner Bros. announced back in October, and which began shipping to consumers in the U.S. and U.K. for $150 just before Christmas. London-based Kano issued a “cease and desist” to Warner Bros. this week, which TechCrunch has seen, requesting that the media and entertainment giant halt its go-to-market and promotional activities.

While Kano is probably better known for its Raspberry Pi and Windows-based modular PCs, the company launched a device similar to Warner Bros.’ new wand way back in 2018. Kano’s Harry Potter Coding kit came replete with a physical gesture-controlled Bluetooth wand designed to engage children through coding spells, making on-screen cauldrons change color, or feathers fly, via elaborate swishing motions with the wand.

Powering the wand are various sensors, including an accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer, which help the wand convey its direction and motion to the tablet or PC to which it’s connected.

In the intervening years, Kano says it has sold some 180,000 units of its Harry Potter coding wand, a figure that rises to 460,000 when you factor in similar gesture-controlled products Kano subsequently launched in partnership with Disney spanning the Star Wars and Frozen franchises.

While Kano is no longer actively marketing its Harry Potter wand, some of its retail partners — which have previously included Apple and Target — do still sell it.


Last April, Kano co-founder and CEO Alex Klein was granted a patent for the wand’s gesture recognition system, covering the basic mechanics of how it works: The user holds down a button to begin the gesture recognition, and the screen displays a cursor trail as the user moves the wand to show how a spell is being cast in real time.

It’s worth noting that Kano launched its wand as part of a brand-licensing partnership with Harry Potter rightsholder Warner Bros., which is why Klein says he was perturbed to learn of its new competing wand hitting the market a few months back.

In a conversation with TechCrunch, Klein explained that off the back of the initial success it saw with the Harry Potter wand in 2018, Warner Bros.’ corporate arm reached out to Kano to get it to explain a bit more about how the product works, including its componentry and how it’s able to recognize spells, and other potential use cases for the underlying technology.

And this is where things get interesting regarding its spat with Warner Bros.

Unlike Kano’s original Harry Potter wand, which was focused squarely on teaching kids how to code, Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter: Magic Caster Wand is all about the smart home. It’s designed to connect to devices such as TVs, lights and speakers, so users can control their contraptions using “spells” and choreographed wand gestures.

According to Klein, Kano had already envisaged such use cases with its own wand, and had made some early developments in the smart home realm.

“In the process of making it easy for a person to hold down the button on the wand and cast a spell, we realized that this is a new language for human computer interaction,” Klein said. “You could be casting spells not only to make Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans explode on a screen, but you could [also] be doing gestures to control your lights, unlock your door and control the volume of music. We realized that this gestural form of interaction could be quite powerful and extended into other domains in the smart home. So we came in, they [Warner Bros.] got really excited about this idea of controlling the smart home.”

Klein showed TechCrunch a video of an early prototype of Kano’s wand controlling various connected devices, which he says was recorded in November 2018 as part of a demonstration in Warner Bros.’ offices.

Fast-forward to 2022, and with Warner Bros. bringing a similar Harry Potter wand to market, Klein says that he reached out to various people at the company to get an explanation, adding that he was told that an internal investigation would follow. But he said the line of communication went cold, leading to the cease and desist letter that Kano issued to Warner Bros. this week.

“A side-by-side comparison of the operation of both the Coding Wand [Kano’s] and the Spellcaster Wand [Warner Bros.’] makes clear — and has now made clear to multiple third-party observers, including patent and intellectual property experts — that an issue has arisen,” the letter states. “The new product uses intellectual property — multiple patent-protected assets, trade secrets, inventions, etc. — of Kano’s, some of which were shared in strict confidence with WB during the many detailed engagements between the companies.”

The story so far

Founded in 2013, Kano has raised some $45 million in funding from notable backers, including European VC Index Ventures, Barclays, Salesforce co-founder Marc Benioff and Microsoft, which worked with Kano to develop a Windows-based PC back in 2019.

Mark Zuckerberg is also apparently a fan of Kano’s products, according to this post from 2021.

Mark Zuckerberg apparently digs Kano. Image Credits: Mark Zuckerberg

However, Kano had been relatively quiet these past few years, announcing a round of layoffs in late 2019 and then not really releasing much in the way of new products. However, in 2021 the company did partner with Kanye West to launch Stem Player, a device that lets users isolate and remix individual song elements. It ultimately pulled back from the partnership due to antisemitic comments made by West.

Today, Kano continues to sell the Stem Player without West’s involvement, and a few weeks back the company unveiled the Stem Projector, while hinting at all manner of new products that may include food and clothes. The company also signaled its transition away from its legacy DIY PC business when it revealed it was spinning out its creative software suite Kano World as a standalone business.

However, the company does plan to stay at least a little bit true to its roots, as it’s developing a modular two-in-one device that can run Windows or ChromeOS, which Klein said it expects to push to market some time this year.

Kano’s upcoming DIY modular PC. Image Credits: Kano

Financially, things hadn’t been looking so great for Kano. At its most recently reported financial year ending of March 2021, Kano disclosed a pre-tax loss of £10.1 million ($12 million), though this was an improvement on the £16.8 million ($20.8 million) loss it reported the previous year. The company told TechCrunch a few weeks back that its provisional accounts for fiscal year 2022 show a pre-tax profit of around £1.2 million ($1.5 million).

What’s next

While Klein is naturally keen to paint an outwardly rosy picture of how things are going at Kano, the fact that it’s actively releasing and developing new products is an encouraging sign. However, a litigious IP scuffle with a billion-dollar mass-media conglomerate is probably the last thing it needs right now.

In a modern-day David versus Goliath scenario, defending IP rights in court as a relatively small startup is not a cheap pursuit — something that Klein is acutely aware of as he considers his next moves.

“It can cost up to $3 million to defend and protect a patent / technology IP,” Klein said. “This stacks the deck in favor of the big corporates. They can afford to throw aggressive lawyers at smaller companies and tie them up in process.”

There is nothing to say, at the moment at least, that this is definitely how things will unfold. But if it does, Klein indicated that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to defend Kano’s work, noting that he has been told by lawyers who have worked on the case so far, on a pro bono basis, that it’s a “pretty open and shut” case.

“If necessary, I’ll work late nights and weekends and represent us myself, pro se,” he said. “We will make sure our team’s hard work and creativity is not abused and ripped off. I may not have gone to law school, but all the proceedings are public, and can be understood with a little elbow grease.”

A Warner Bros. spokesperson finally provided TechCrunch with a comment, saying: “The claims made by Kano are without merit.”*

*This story was updated shortly after publishing to include a response from a Warner Bros. spokesperson.


Source link

read more

Atomos tows a $16M load of funding to create tugboats in space • TechCrunch


You may not have known that space needs tugboats, but now you do — and Atomos Space just closed a $16.2 million Series A investment, which will enable the company to complete its demonstration mission where it will show off its docking and towing capabilities. The company is building a series of Orbital Transfer Vehicles (OTV) that makes it possible to reposition satellites in space. The theory is that, by making it possible to move flying objects into different orbits, they don’t have to have full navigation capabilities themselves, which in turn should make operating spacecraft much cheaper. The company claims its existence effectively halves the launch costs of satellite operators.

The company is starting with high-powered electric propulsion systems, and is eager to share that it sees those propulsion methods as stepping stones for its nuclear OTV options, which would be able to travel faster and farther, and offering commercial mobility services. The company is also positioning itself to be able to use these technologies for asteroid deflection, effectively putting Harry Stamper out of a job.

“I worked on launch vehicle design, and then spacecraft propulsion system design and also some advanced technologies for moving around in space, and realized very quickly that how we do space logistics is sub-optimal. The best analogy that we use is with aircraft. Imagine you have a single-use plane, you are the sole passenger, and you have to take everything with you, unable to do shopping on the way. So if you want to drive around at your end destination, you need to take the car and you need to take gas with you,” explains Vanessa Clark, CEO and co-founder of Atomos Space. “Ultimately, it’s very expensive and limited. What we really need is a hub and spoke logistics model for space. This allows us to do really cool things, commercial missions like Earth observation, global communications, broadband internet, but it also allows us to take the next step as a species and do more things in deep space that makes sense economically and from a scientific perspective.”

This is the company’s third round of VC funding, and so far it has built and tested on the ground, including its docking and propulsion systems. The next big step is to fly the first vehicle.

“This is a lot of autonomy. We are working on having a self-driving satellite that can detect and navigate to a client and grab onto it safely. We have the ability to optimize our propulsion system for operating just in space, unlike a launch vehicle that also has to design for getting into space,” Clark highlights the company’s competitive advantage. “That means we can go farther and use less propellant. With this new round of funding we’re finishing the build of our first two vehicles, and we have booked a launch in just under 12 months. It’s going to be a really exciting mission, where we are flying two full-size commercial vehicles.”

The first use cases of the technology is to take launched satellites to their final destinations and to reposition satellites mid-mission. When vehicles have reached their end of service, they can be moved to graveyard orbits, or disposal orbits so that they can burn up in the atmosphere.

“Our goal as a company is to make any orbit as accessible as low Earth orbit (LEO). On Earth, if you want to send something overseas, it is as easy as sending a package to the next town over. You just go to the post office. We want that to be possible for space,” explains Clark. “We want to be operating a fleet of orbital transit vehicles in Earth orbit that can provide the vast missions for a set of clients, spacecraft operators, Space Station operators and also companies and agencies that want to explore beyond the atmosphere.”

The company is particularly excited about nuclear propulsion in space, and are investing heavily on that front, telling us it offers an order of magnitude improvement in speed and payload capabilities.

With the current round of funding, the company says it will double the size of the team and launch its first two OTVs in early 2024. The investment was led by Cantos Ventures and the Yamauchi No. 10 Family Office (that’s the family that founded Nintendo), with participation from Upheaval Investments, Dolby Family Ventures, Arden Road Investments, Elefund and Techstars.


Source link

read more

The best Twitter alternatives worth checking out • TechCrunch


We’ll be straight with you. There’s no 1:1 Twitter replacement — not yet, and possibly not ever.

Still, there are plenty of social apps that might be worth substituting into your obsessive timeline-checking routines if you’re done with Twitter for whatever reason (we can think of plenty).

Twitter’s current situation — advertisers leaving, Nazis logging back on, little things breaking here and there every day — presents an opportunity to check in with ourselves about what we really want out of a social network.

We don’t just have to use social apps because they’re there and they’re really sticky. Users should get something out of the exchange, particularly on ad-supported services. Whether that means building a following for your fledgling business or connecting with people in communities you care about, social media should serve a function — not just drain away the hours in the day.

Happily, there are options. Decentralized projects offer a different experience that’s less beholden to corporate whims while less traditional social platforms might serve up a totally different set of interactions and experiences. But that’s okay. Twitter wasn’t perfect, and while it was and arguably still is pretty essential for real-time events and news-gathering, its most engaged users didn’t always enjoy spending time there.

While we’re all figuring it out and seeing what pops up next, here are some options to consider.


Mastodon emerged as the most-discussed home for fleeing Twitter users — and with good reason.

The service is designed in a way that decentralizes power and moderation decisions, obviating the concerns about one person setting platform-wide rules based on a whim.

Mastodon works a lot like Twitter, allowing users to share real-time thoughts to an account and re-share posts by others. But that’s mostly where the similarities end. Unlike traditional social networks, Mastodon is an open source option, which means that rather than all users being in one big basket with one set of rules, you’ll need to select a server (smaller basket) to join.

If you get sick of it or disagree with those moderation decisions, you can migrate elsewhere. You can still follow and interact with people on other servers so you don’t need to agonize too much over that choice, but that decentralized ethos colors the whole experience.

Like a choice of server, you’ll also have a choice of which app to use to use the service on mobile (we like Metatext and plan to check out Ivory, from Tweetbot maker Tapbots). Mastodon’s open source nature means you’ve got more choice all around, but the downside of that is that the extra steps might be off-putting to people who want a more straightforward sign-up process.

That said, if you’re tired of the cynicism and harassment on Twitter, the vibe on Mastodon is pretty chill right now. If any of this sounds interesting, it’s definitely worth checking out.


Discord doesn’t really work like Twitter at all, but hear us out — it’s one of the best social apps around.

The app was originally created to give gamers a better way to chat, but since then it has expanded well beyond that initial vision. Like Mastodon, Discord doesn’t offer a giant “public square,” instead offering topic and interest-based servers that anyone can join and hang out in. Discord offers regular text chat within its server-based channels, as well as seamless voice chat and some other experiences, like streaming a game to friends or queueing up YouTube videos together. Some of the most popular servers have hundreds of thousands of members, but you could also just curate one for friends or family.

Through servers, Discord offers some of the same federation benefits as Mastodon without the open source stuff that spooks some people during onboarding. Unlike some of the other options on this list, Discord isn’t going anywhere any time soon: It’s a mature company with a thriving user base and a sustainable business built around paid subscriptions. That kind of stability goes a long way for social apps, which historically are prone to fizzling out and vanishing overnight.

The downside is that Discord is more about chatting than posting. The app’s Slack-like interface refreshes in real time and in a busy Discord, or even one with a few hundred active members, it’s easy to lose track of conversations fast. The company knows that and is actively building more tools that enable asynchronous interactions, so that’s something to watch out for.


Post is a mainstream alternative to Twitter that shares little in common with more open platforms like Mastodon. The platform was sped into private beta to capitalize on the timing of Twitter’s recent chaos and is only just opening up to everybody. Far from being decentralized, Post offers a more curated experience that’s focused on attracting the journalists who usually while away the day on Twitter.

Post allows users to write, post, share, comment and like content, much like we’re used to on Twitter. But the thrust of the service is altogether different. Post wants to help newsgatherers monetize their content, building in micropayments and tipping and promising the ability to buy “individual articles from different premium news providers” in order to get outside of their information bubble. Far from being an open platform, Post is backed by VC and traditional investment from Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and tech commentator Scott Galloway.

Post’s pitch is compelling, but the social network sounds a bit like it was designed in a vacuum. Those of us who work in the news might check it out or hang out there but it’s hard to imagine many average Twitter users being lured by the promise of paying for journalism, which unfortunately is a hard sell. Post could develop a more Substack-like commentator culture, but even then it’s hard to see why the Substack elite would jump ship for a new platform.


Although you may not see it as an alternative to Twitter, hear us out, because there are some similarities between the two platforms that make it a notable contender.

Even though Tumblr teeters more toward a microblogging site than a traditional social network, it features a feed that displays posts from people you follow in a similar way to Twitter. Tumblr lets you post content with images, GIFs, videos and more. You can leave notes on a post, which are similar to comments. You can also like, share and repost content on the platform. Tumblr also has a trending topics section like Twitter. In addition, the platform has a chat feature that’s similar to direct messages on Twitter.

Tumblr offers more flexibility than Twitter, while being easy to set up and use. You can use Tumblr for free or opt for an ad-free experience with additional features for $4.99 per month or $39.99 a year.

Given Tumblr’s ability to stay alive despite its fair share of changing ownership, we don’t think it’s going anywhere, which makes it an ideal alternative to Twitter. It’s also a place with its own unique humor and a chaotic culture that’s a massive part of Tumblr’s unique appeal.


Although Cohost is still in its beta phase, anyone can sign up for the service. If you don’t have an invitation, you’ll have to wait a day or two before you can start posting. The website says this measure is designed to prevent spam.

Cohost offers a vertical feed that displays posts chronologically, as opposed to an algorithmic listing. Similar to Twitter, Cohost has followers, reposts, likes and comments. Right now, the interface is quite simple, and since it doesn’t use algorithms, there isn’t a trending section. The platform won’t surface content unless you actively search for it using hashtags.

You can use the platform for free or pay a monthly $5 fee for additional features, such as larger uploads and more customization options. The company says the fee mainly helps it keep the lights on as it continues to grow.

Since Cohost is fairly new and a bit rocky, it may not be the most established Twitter alternative. But, it could be appealing to people who want a simple alternative that actually looks like Twitter in some ways. We’ll have to wait and see if it will be able to amass enough users and traction to be considered a worthy alternative.

Wild card: Bluesky

We don’t know a lot about Bluesky, but what we do know is intriguing. Bluesky was developed in parallel with Twitter and spearheaded by former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Like Mastodon, Bluesky is all about the decentralized social network, i.e. giving people the tools they need to form their own communities.

There’s been some pushback to Bluesky given its Dorsey connection, but we’re still interested to see what the project comes up with once it eventually expands its super limited closed beta. The Bluesky team is apparently launching an app along with the protocol itself and the result could combine a Twitter-like user interface with algorithmic choice, a federated design and community-specific moderation. We’re listening.

We’ll keep this list updated as we explore new social apps that can scratch the Twitter itch in the coming months. Love one we didn’t mention here? Let us know:


Source link

read more

What’s Stripe’s deal? • TechCrunch


Welcome to The Interchange! If you received this in your inbox, thank you for signing up and your vote of confidence. If you’re reading this as a post on our site, sign up here so you can receive it directly in the future. Every week, I’ll take a look at the hottest fintech news of the previous week. This will include everything from funding rounds to trends to an analysis of a particular space to hot takes on a particular company or phenomenon. There’s a lot of fintech news out there and it’s my job to stay on top of it — and make sense of it — so you can stay in the know. — Mary Ann

Stripe eyes exit, reportedly tried raising at a lower valuation

The big news in fintech this week revolved around payments giant Stripe.

On January 26, my Equity Podcast co-host and overall amazingly talented reporter Natasha Mascarenhas and I teamed up to write about how Stripe had set a 12-month deadline for itself to go public, either through a direct listing or by pursuing a transaction on the private market, such as a fundraising event and a tender offer, according to sources familiar with the matter. The news, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal, came as a surprise considering the rather dry public market activity in the tech world. Later that day, it also came to light that Stripe had reportedly approached investors about raising more capital — at least $2 billion — at a valuation of $55 billion to $60 billion. This is especially newsworthy considering that Stripe last raised at a $95 billion valuation in March of 2021. Now, down rounds are hardly shocking in today’s environment. But for some reason, when you’re talking about a company that had achieved the highest-ever valuation for a privately held startup, it sits differently. Even more intriguing, The Wall Street Journal reported that Stripe would not use the money toward operating expenses but rather to cover a large annual tax bill associated with employee stock units. It is not clear if any discussions are ongoing, and Stripe declined to comment on the matter when asked.

The fact that the company might raise money to pay off a tax bill raised eyebrows internally here at TechCrunch. That is not typical, and it certainly doesn’t seem like it’s an ideal way to spend investors’ cash. Ken Smythe, founder and CEO of Next Round Capital Partners — a capital markets and VC secondaries firm — validated our impressions.

In a phone interview on January 27, he told me that it is “highly unusual for investors to be excited about a new round that is primarily going to pay unpaid taxes.”

Instead, Smythe said, they generally get more pumped about funding expansions into new markets or products or other growth initiatives.

But generally speaking, he believes that a fundraise is a more likely outcome for Stripe than an IPO, if the company can pull it off.

“It makes sense that Stripe would try to raise money privately at a $55 billion to $60 billion, a -30% drop from their $95 billion round in 2021,” he told me. “In contrast to public fintech stocks, which have suffered -65% to -80% drops over the last 12 to 18 months (PayPal, Square, Ayden), a private raise at $60 billion would be a big win. That’s still a very healthy multiple of 20x+ revenue multiple in an environment where many fintech names are trading in the single digits.”

Going public, Smythe said, will likely remain challenging for most companies until late 2023 or 2024 — Stripe included.

“It’s highly unlikely that an IPO for Stripe is anywhere near on the horizon, given the weakness of broader fintech gains and the unpredictability and volatility of Stripe’s revenues,” he added.

Indeed, as a historically transactional-payments business, Stripe appears to be exploring ways to generate meaningful — and predictable — revenue. For example, Amazon announced on January 23 that it plans to “significantly expand” its use of Stripe. Reported Pymnts: “Under the new agreement, Stripe will become a strategic payments partner for Amazon in the U.S., Europe and Canada, processing a significant portion of Amazon’s total payments volume. Stripe will be used across Amazon’s business units, including Prime, Audible, Kindle, Amazon Pay, Buy With Prime and more.” Also, I recently wrote about how new fintech startup Mayfair is paying Stripe a fee as part of its mission to offer businesses a higher yield on their cash.

I know we’re all wondering what’s going on with the company as it appears to be struggling to keep its footing in an increasingly crowded fintech space. Will it raise or go public? What is Stripe really valued at now? I, for one, can’t wait to find out.

Stripe logo displayed on a smartphone screen.

Image Credits: SOPA Images / Contributor / Getty Images

Bolt lays off more people, continues to struggle

One-click checkout startup Bolt laid off more people last week. And according to The Information, CEO Maju Kuruvilla “told an all-hands meeting … that ‘quite a few’ of Bolt’s recent moves, including partnerships, new products, and acquisitions, had not worked out.” Also according to The Information, about 50 employees were affected by the latest round of layoffs. Overall, the company has cut its headcount by more than half since last May.

When asked, a company spokesperson told me only that Bolt is “focused on the long-term success” of its business and its customers. She added: “We truly believe we will power the next generation of growth for independent retailers. As we concentrate on strengthening our core products, we regretfully had to make the difficult decision to restructure our teams and part ways with some of our talented employees. We’re extremely grateful for everyone’s contributions.”

TechCrunch reported on Bolt’s previous layoffs last May.

Next Round Capital Partners’ Ken Smythe is not at all surprised by the latest layoff news, telling me that Bolt has struggled to get its core product “to achieve any real traction with customers.”

“Revenue continues to be very weak — in the $30 million to $40 million range, and it was expected to be much higher at this point,” Smythe said. “A lot of customer acquisition they have talked about has not come to fruition. They overhired, raised $1B at an extreme valuation ($11B valuation at 300x+ multiple), which they used to hire but a product never materialized. Now they’re burning that cash. The reality is they haven’t delivered — hence the layoffs.”

Fintech startup Bolt has settled its suit with Forever21’s parent company – and made it a shareholder

Image Credits: CEO Maju Kuruvilla / Bolt

Other News

Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, U.S. Bank, PNC, Truist and Capital One are collaborating on a product that, according to The Wall Street Journal, “will allow shoppers to pay at merchants’ online checkout with a wallet that will be linked to their debit and credit cards.” Early Warning Services, which is owned by a consortium of the seven banks, will operate the yet-to-be-named digital wallet, which Banking Dive reports is expected to launch in the second half of the year. The wallet will operate separately from the EWS-run peer-to-peer payments platform Zelle, according to the Journal. The move seems to be an effort on the part of the banks to compete with the likes of PayPal and Apple. But is it too little too late? J.D. Power and Associates sent me a report that showed that according to its data, “mobile wallet usage among Americans continues to grow in stores, but the percentage of customers that still say it is easier to use a physical credit/debit card than a mobile wallet is on the rise.”

ICYMI: On January 19, Bloomberg reported that Capital One had “eliminated hundreds of technology positions,” a move that impacted over 1,100 workers. Those employees were reportedly invited to apply for other roles in the bank.

For those of us who suck at carrying cash, it’s good to know that digital tipping is a growing space. Christine Hall recently wrote about Grazzy raising $4.5 million to grow its digital tipping platform. And last week, startup eTip announced its collaboration with Visa aimed at helping hospitality and service industry clients “accelerate the adoption of digital tipping.” Via email, eTip said: “With eTip, guests of hotels, cruise lines, casinos, and resorts can now tip staff by simply scanning or tapping a QR code, allowing hospitality and service employees to receive digital tips in real time.”

X1 released X1+, which it described as a “premium smart credit card” focused on travel. Features include complimentary lounge access for flight delays, enhanced travel rewards and “smart” baggage protection. CEO Deepak Rao also told me via email that X1 has raised $16 million in venture debt from Silicon Valley Bank, which will be used toward “growing new product lines and having cash reserve for growth in purchase volume and outstanding balances.” That financing follows the company’s recent $15 million extension funding round.

Fintech-turned-HR outfit Deel revealed that it reached $295 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR) in 2022. That’s up 417.5% from $57 million in ARR achieved at the end of 2021. The massive jump in ARR is impressive by normal standards but particularly so considering the challenging macroenvironment that startups everywhere faced last year. The company’s co-founder and CEO Alex Bouaziz also confirmed the company’s valuation of $12 billion, which we reported on in May at the time of Deel’s $50 million raise. The executive also told TechCrunch that Deel is profitable, having been EBITDA positive since September.

Former Salesforce executive Craig Nile has taken a role as Modern Treasury’s new chief revenue officer to, in the company’s own words, “lead the company’s continuing push into enterprises.” Modern Treasury, which describes itself as “the operating system for the new era of payments,” also announced it has landed construction software giant Procore, fintech Splitwise and expense management company TripActions as new customers.

Ex-Plaid product marketing lead Victor Umunze has launched Wafi, a payment processing platform that aims to provide e-commerce businesses “with a simple API to enable fast, secure, and cost-effective processing of bank payments that eliminates redundant entities in the payment processing flow, giving businesses significant cost savings and increasing profitability,” the company told me via email. More on this here.

Reports Manish Singh: “India’s central bank has directed SBM Bank India to stop all outward remittance transactions in a blow to the bank and many of its fintech partners that offer services allowing users to invest in foreign services.” More here.

From Fintech Futures: “Mexican buy now, pay later (BNPL) fintech Kueski has appointed Fausto Ibarra as its new chief product officer (CPO) to lead the firm’s long-term vision for its financial product offerings. Ibarra brings over two decades of experience to the role, most recently serving as Stripe’s head of product for Latin America. Prior to that, he also held various senior roles at tech giants including Meta, Google and Microsoft.” Via email, Kueski told me that the company recently hit its 10-year anniversary of financial service operations, with almost 10 million loans issued since its inception to 1.7 million users across its products, Kueski Pay and Kueski Cash, totaling more than $1.4 billion in loan transactions.

PayPal and Bold Commerce have teamed up in an effort “to enable brands to go headless.” Via email, the companies told me: “Brands will now be able to give PayPal’s 430 million active users the ability to check out wherever they are — beyond brands’ traditional e-commerce sites — using PayPal’s full line of payment options: PayPal, Venmo, PayPal Pay Later solutions, and credit and debit cards. This news creates the largest global cross-merchant network effect for e-commerce … Brands will now have control of the checkout experience and payment options they offer shoppers on third-party digital channels (such as social media, blogs, digital interfaces and QR codes). Currently, brands either have to take shoppers away from the content they’re engaging with to complete a purchase, or they’re limited to the payment options selected by the channel.”

Some news out of Puerto Rico: FV Bank — which claims to be the first bank in Puerto Rico granted a digital asset custody license by the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions (OCIF) — announced the launch of its cross-border, foreign currency payments facility. Via email, FV told me: “The new service will facilitate commerce, allowing US and international customers to make timely, seamless, and secure cross-border transactions, without the need for multiple currency conversions or exorbitant fees.” More here.

In this week’s episode of TechCrunch’s fabulous Found podcast, Darrell and Becca were joined by Sebastian Siemiatkowski, the co-founder and CEO of Klarna. Sebastian talks about what led him to found the startup and how it has navigated multiple market cycles since. He also dives into how Klarna has grown in different categories and which have been more successful than others. Plus, he talks about why he’s been so transparent about the company’s valuation and status amid 2022’s market turmoil. Check it out here.

And while we’re on the topic of Klarna . . . From Finextra: “Klarna has taken a leaf out of Spotify’s playbook with the launch of Money Story, a personal summary of 2022 that provides consumers with useful insights into their spending habits. Money Story uses the animated ‘story’ format popularised by social media, to provide users with spending insights that they can convert into financial goals for 2023. The package visualises spending patterns and presents animated quiz questions that prompt users to reflect on where they think they spent their money in 2022.”

Speaking of BNPL, in last week’s Exchange newsletter, the brilliant Anna Heim writes in a story cleverly titled ‘Protect me from what I want’: “Buy now, pay later is an alluring option for consumers, perhaps even more so in a recession. But with rising debt and inflation, perhaps the focus should be on companies that help protect borrowers from digging themselves into a hole.”

Reports Startup Weekly: “Bean, a Matchstick Ventures-backed digital accounting startup, announced it emerged from stealth to democratize the market for accounting services. Bean’s SaaS enabled marketplace matches a network of elite accountants (only 4% of applicants get access) with CFOs and companies. A 2022 graduate of TechStars LA, Matchstick Ventures, Far Out Ventures and Acadian Ventures invested $1.7 million joined by angel investors and founders Wayne Chang and Jeff Seibert.”

Restive Ventures released its 2023 State of Fintech report.

Proptech corner

Inman reports: “Comparing himself to Henry Ford and Elon Musk, CEO Vishal Garg says he’s reconfigured Better‘s assembly line to crank out mortgages in a single day.” In a press release, the company — which is rumored to still be struggling quite a bit — claims that its customers “will be able to go online, get pre-approved, lock their rate and get a mortgage Commitment Letter from Better, all within 24 hours.”

Sean Roberts has left his role as COO and CFO of real estate tech company Orchard and is now CEO of Villa, a venture-backed ADU builder. According to his LinkedIn profile, Roberts will continue to strategically advise Orchard.

According to, vacation rental management platform Vacasa laid off 1,300 employees, or 17% of its workforce, last Tuesday, “a dramatic step aimed at stabilizing the faltering Portland company.” “We need to reduce our costs and continue to focus on becoming a profitable company,” new CEO Rob Greyber wrote in a note to staff Tuesday, which Vacasa then filed with federal securities regulators.

Fundings and M&A

Seen on TechCrunch

YC grad Method raises $16M to power loan repayment, balance transfers and more across fintech apps

B2B sales closing and financing platform Vartana raises $12M

Reimbursement and spend management platform Payem secures $220M in equity and debt 

Bling Capital-backed Coverdash unveils its embedded, digital insurance for small businesses

Zenfi takes in new funding to bring Mexicans some financial peace

And elsewhere

DailyPay secures $260 million in new funding.

Tranch raises $100 million in funding ($5 million equity, $95 million debt) to expand B2B BNPL for service providers.

Charlotte, NC–based commercial lending startup Foro emerges from stealth with $8 million in Series A funding Interestingly, the company tells us that one of its backers is former Bank of America CEO and chairman Hugh McColl Jr.

Suppli raises $3.1 million to modernize construction payments, grow team.

Zurp raises $5 million pre-seed round to launch the credit card for experiences.

Nuula sold to Nav Technologies following collapse of Series A round. 

​​Medsi secures $10 million in debt financing to onboard 30,000 Mexican customers waiting for its “health assurance” super app.

Madrid-based Twinco Capital raises $12 million in equity and debt for supply chain finance platform.

Mexican VC Dila Capital, with portfolio companies such as fintechs Kushki and Mattilda, closed its fourth fund: $115 million.

Sandbar gets $4.8 million to fund fight against financial crime. Beyond the headline: The startup also announced the availability of its product. Investors include Lachy Groom and Abstract Ventures, with participation from BoxGroup, as well as 45+ angel investors, including founders and executives from Ramp, Stripe, OpenAI, Plaid, and Square. Sandbar says it identifies risks and “provides more effective models to accurately identify suspicious behavior across payment products and services.” According to a spokesperson: “With stronger AML systems, Sandbar is helping to mitigate false positives and to address large-scale fraud, money laundering, sanctions, and illicit funding for human trafficking, wars, and crimes.”

ICYMI: Alaan, UAE’s spend management platform, raises $4.5 million in a pre-series A round.

Butter Payments raises $22 million to target a massive problem for subscription companies.

Whew, I’ll be honest, that was exhausting to put together (but fun!). Thank you for hanging in there with me ’til the end. Enjoy the rest of your weekend and stay tuned for lots more fintech news next week. xoxo, Mary Ann


Source link

read more

Where should sales sit in product-led companies? • TechCrunch



elcome to the TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter. It’s inspired by the daily TechCrunch+ column where it gets its name. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here.

The adoption of product-led growth is changing how B2B companies conduct their business and leading some of them to reorganize their teams. What if “sales and product” or “sales and growth” made more sense than “sales and marketing”? Let’s explore. — Anna

The new focus of product-led sales

Product-led sales is a model in which the product, not traditional marketing, helps companies understand who might be their next big customer.

Think of a freemium dev tools company, for instance: Instead of tracking which CTO downloaded their latest white paper, they look for organizations that already have dozens of employees engaging with their product on a daily basis.


Source link

read more

The latecomer advantage in startups • TechCrunch


Welcome to Startups Weekly, a nuanced take on this week’s startup news and trends by Senior Reporter and Equity co-host Natasha Mascarenhas. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here.

Sometimes, due to the nature of the startup game, we over index on “the new.” Companies want to build for the pain point you never dreamed to disrupt; VCs want to invest in an emerging trend before it becomes a household name; and those breaking into tech are told to lean into their earnestness, because you never know who is going to answer your cold email. In order for entrepreneurship to feel exciting and welcoming — not even be, but feel — new needs to be one of its loudest characteristics.

After all, you only get to be “it” once.

But one question I’ve found myself asking over the past year, especially as some of the more tenured folks speak about past downturns and cyclical learning lessons, is the latecomer advantage. It’s partially obvious: When you’ve done this whole entrepreneurship thing before, you understand what mistakes to avoid and seamlessly know which investors to dodge.

But it’s also partially not as easy of a story. There’s a difference between being new and being inexperienced, the same way there’s a difference between experienced and being late. How do you know where you are on that entire timeline — especially when the stories feel better to tell at the extremes?

This week on Equity, I interviewed T2 co-founder Sarah Oh, who is building a Twitter rival after working at Twitter as a human rights adviser. Quite quickly, I asked her how building a copycat of your former employer makes you feel. She seemed unbothered, to which I promptly said: All is fair in love and moderation.

But the better answer that Oh gave me was around the latecomer advantage that she has, building a company in a world that she knows extremely well. By joining the consumer social wave today versus before anyone even thought in characters and retweets, the co-founder thinks they get to factor in more of the nuance.

“There’s a lot that we know about gaps in trust and safety in the industry, whether it’s datasets that we need, or models that need to be built, or certain standards that need to exist for models, right, there’s a whole laundry list of things that I wish I had in my previous roles that just didn’t exist, we’re now at a place where we can have those conversations,” Oh said. She added that when some of the first social media platforms were being created, there weren’t “historical case studies or precedent” for a lot of the controversies that now exist. With some of the ugly out of the way — my words, not hers — T2 has examples it can refer back to on how to handle tensions around virality, doxxing and more.

It just made me think about that larger comprehension coupled with the nimbleness of a startup. Maybe, it’s being both old and new that might be the striking balance that helps a startup start up. In this case, we have no idea how the old or the new attempts at Twitter are going to do, but we do know that this time has never mattered more.

In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll talk about chief inspiration officers, growing startup accelerators and a rare buzz we’re hearing about one tech company and its public market wishes. As always, you can follow me on Twitter or Instagram.

Goodbye, chief inspiration officer

Also on Equity this week, the crew spoke about how venture capitalists are going to pay more attention to how portfolio founders are spending capital — especially around hiring trends. Becca’s latest for TC+ — use code EQUITY for 50% off an annual membership — gets into why the hiring slide in the pitch deck is no longer going to be a throwaway part of the presentation.

Expect more scrutiny.

Here’s why this is important: We know that companies are dropping staff to cut costs, but those that are hiring may have to take a more conservative approach in both types of roles and level of pay. All to say, there’s definitely an opportunity to find talent if you are hiring. But, it won’t be easy for all laid-off talent to find their next gigs, especially as employers look to hire cheaper talent with less ambitious staffing goals.

Red megaphone and silver colored alphabet letters in front of gray wall. Horizontal composition with copy space. Great use for announcement concepts.

Image Credits: MicroStockHub (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The Goldilocks moonshot

NextView Ventures has launched its fourth accelerator program, aiming to back around half a dozen founders with $400,000 in funding and mentorship opportunities. It’s also offering at least one spot to a team built by ex-colleagues who have been laid off over the past downturn.

Here’s why this is important: The accelerator partners are open to backing founders even if they have a half-baked idea or only an area that they want to dig into. Even in a more disciplined market, there are some firms that are still comfortable seeding ideas versus fully fledged business ideas. “It’s almost half a step earlier than we’ve typically thought of” portfolio companies, Rob Go, founding partner, NextView Ventures, said, of the cohorts.

Light bulb with combination lock; patent application

Image Credits: Talaj (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The follow-up

Stripe is eyeing an exit, finally. The payments giant has set a 12-month deadline for itself to go public, either through a direct listing or pursuing a transaction on the private market, such as a fundraising event and a tender offer, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Here’s why this is important: I mean, must I state the obvious? The public markets for tech companies have been stale, unwelcoming, insert boring adjective here. If Stripe does kick off a trend, we’re in for an exciting next year. But some are dubious on the timeline. After all, it’s literally easier said than done.

daisy flower in the desert

Image Credits: masik0553 (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Etc., etc.

Seen on TechCrunch

The thing we thought was happening with robotic investments is definitely happening

App downloads were stagnant in the fourth quarter, new analysis finds

Then call them ‘robots’

Strava acquires Fatmap, a 3D mapping platform for the great outdoors

LastPass owner GoTo says hackers stole customers’ backups

Seen on TechCrunch+

The current legal cases against generative AI are just the beginning

A VC’s perspective on deep tech fundraising in Q1 2023

As activist investors target Salesforce, what’s next for the CRM giant?

Laid off from your crypto job? Here’s what founders are looking for in new talent

Startups should expect more scrutiny from VCs on their hiring plans

I’ll end with the evergreen reminder that I absolutely love going to startup happy hours and VC dinners in San Francisco, so do let me know if you’re throwing one! And if you’re still working on your social engine like me, I’m also always game to do a 1:1 coffee chat or dumpling lunch.

To the rest of you, thanks for reading as always. 2023 is already soaring on by, isn’t it?

Talk soon,



Source link

read more

VC funding to Black web3 founders popped last year, bucking trends • TechCrunch


Much hope remains after the crypto winter almost froze the sector: the Luna crash, the bankruptcy of Celsius and the arrest of FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried for alleged fraud. Then there was the venture pullback amid an economic downturn.

In 2021, web3 startups globally raised a record $29.2 billion. By 2022, that number dipped to $21.5 billion — though that’s still much more than the total $4.8 billion and $4.2 billion such companies picked up in 2020 and 2019, respectively.

Black people who invested in crypto were hit disproportionately hard during the winter, though many Black founders and investors who spoke to TechCrunch remain optimistic about the sector’s potential for the community and society overall. If anything, last year’s economic correction was necessary, they told TechCrunch.

“Bubble had to pop,” People of Crypto co-founder Simone Berry said. “It wasn’t sustainable and economic correction was needed. The downturn removed the bad actors who only entered the space for fast dollars. It created an opportunity to exit the hype cycle, clearing the way for development that will ensure the growth of the ecosystem in a sustainable way, adding value.”

Pryce Adade-Yebesi, the co-founder of Utopia Labs, agreed. “This period of time was a rightful consequence for a period of rampant speculation and grift,” he told TechCrunch. “This will be a great time to focus. Getting back to the reality of solving pervasive problems in the world; it’s an important change of pace for the space.”

Funding for Black web3 founders has only increased, and the crypto winter proved the most fruitful year. Crunchbase data shows that U.S. Black web3 founders raised $60 million (out of the $11.9 billion total given to all U.S. web3 startups in 2022). That amount is substantially higher than the $16 million such founders received in 2021, during crypto’s record-breaking year (U.S. web3 startups received $16.5 billion that year).

In 2017, they raised $11 million out of $1.03 billion, and in 2018, they raised basically zero dollars out of around $2.8 billion; note the vanishingly thin red line in the chart below. In 2019 and 2020 Black web3 founders raised $2.5 million and $4.5 million out of $2.4 billion and $3.2 billion, respectively.

Fundraising last year was hard for many Black founders, and many were impacted by the downturn, though it’s quite telling that Black web3 founders were able to pick up record sums amid an overall dip in the web3 funding market. It appears that investors, too, are in some ways bullish on Black founders, a change of tune in how such entrepreneurs are usually considered.

Data visualization by Miranda Halpern, created with Flourish


Source link

read more

Temu’s hot streak, Walmart’s m-commerce & an Apple XR App Store • TechCrunch


Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app economy in 2023 hit a few snags, as consumer spending last year dropped for the first time by 2% to $167 billion, according to the latest “State of Mobile” report by (previously App Annie). However, downloads are continuing to grow, up 11% year-over-year in 2022 to reach 255 billion. Consumers are also spending more time in mobile apps than ever before. On Android devices alone, hours spent in 2022 grew 9%, reaching 4.1 trillion.

This Week in Apps offers a way to keep up with this fast-moving industry in one place with the latest from the world of apps, including news, updates, startup fundings, mergers and acquisitions, and much more.

Do you want This Week in Apps in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here:

Temu’s continued rise

Image Credits: Temu

Temu, a shopping app from Chinese e-commerce giant Pinduoduo, has been having quite the run as the No. 1 app on the U.S. app stores. The mobile shopping app hit the top spot on the U.S. App Store in September and has continued to hold a highly ranked position in the months that followed, including as the No. 1 free app on Google Play since December 29, 2022. More recently, Temu once again snagged the No. 1 position on the iOS App Store on January 3 and hadn’t dropped since as of earlier this week.

Offering cheap factory-to-consumer goods, Temu provides access to a wide range of products, including fast fashion, and pushes users to share the app with friends in exchange for free products, which may account for some of its growth. The app has seen 5 million U.S. installs this January alone, up 19% from 4.2 million in the prior 22 days from December 10 through December 31, Sensor Tower says. This brings it to a total of 19 million lifetime installs across the App Store and Google Play, more than 18 million of which came from the U.S.

The growth now sees Temu outpacing rival Shein in terms of daily installs. In October, Temu was averaging around 43,000 daily installs in the U.S., the firm said, while Shein averaged about 62,000. In November, Temu’s average daily installs grew to 185,000 while Shein’s climbed to 70,000, and last month, Temu averaged 187,000 installs while Shein saw about 62,000.

The app appears to be leveraging a similar growth strategy to TikTok, which heavily spent on marketing to gain users. According to Meta’s ad library, Temu has run some 8,900 ads across Meta’s various platforms just this month. The ads promote Temu’s sales and its extremely discounted items, like $5 necklaces, $4 shirts and $13 shoes, among other deals. These ads appear to be working to boost Temu’s installs. But dig into the app’s reviews and you’ll find similar complaints to Wish, including scammy listings, damaged and delayed deliveries, incorrect orders and lack of customer service. Without addressing these issues, which helped bring down Wish, Temu seems more likely to go the way of Wish, not TikTok, no matter what it spends.

Walmart’s chatbot shopping didn’t go well

Image Credits: Screenshot of Walmart Text to Shop

Walmart recently introduced a new way to shop: via text. Last month, the retail giant launched its “Text to Shop” experience, which allows mobile consumers across both iOS and Android devices to text Walmart the items they want to purchase from either their local stores or, or easily reorder items for pickup, delivery or shipping. However, the chat experience as it stands today does not come across as fully baked, our tests found. The chatbot said confusing things and the user interface at times was difficult to navigate, despite aiming to be a simpler, text-based shopping experience.

We tested the experience, which leverages Apple’s Message app on iPhone, and it did not go well. The bot responded twice at times, offered only a few options for generic requests like “eggs,” asked everytime if an item was for pickup or delivery, provided inaccurate responses and spoke nonsense when confused — like when it returned options for “la croix organic eggs.” We’d say stick with the Walmart app for now.

Read the full review here.

Apple’s Reality Pro details

Could the next big app platform be Apple’s AR/VR headset? That’s the news from Bloomberg, which leaked details of Apple’s upcoming headset, the $3,000 Reality Pro due out later this year. The headset will attempt to create a 3D version of Apple’s operating system, the report said, and will include features like FaceTime videoconferencing (with avatars), the ability to watch immersive videos, play VR games and use Apple’s apps — including the Safari web browser, photos, mail, messages, calendar, App TV+, Apple Music, Podcasts and the App Store.

The report described an interface with a grid of app icons and widgets, and said Siri could be used when you needed to input text. However, the interesting details involved how users could interact with on-screen items. Apparently, the device would have external sensors to analyze the user’s hands and sensors inside to track the user’s eyes. This would allow the user to select items on the screen by looking at them, then pinch their thumb and forefinger together to activate the task — without needing to hold additional hand controllers like rival headsets, Bloomberg said. It may also have its own Digital Crown, like Apple Watch, for switching between AR and VR and its iOS-like interface.

Additionally, Apple is reported to be building software that allows users, including those who don’t know how to code, to build their own AR apps for its upcoming mixed-reality headset.

There are of course still a lot of unanswered questions about the headset’s capabilities, though it does sound like a very “Apple” attempt at getting VR right. But the device’s price point will make it a premium product for the time being — and one launching during a down economy — which could limit its growth.

Apple Updates

  • The new iOS 16.3 update included notable security features like the expansion of the new Advanced Data Protection for iCloud feature to markets outside of the U.S. The update also added Security Keys for Apple ID and a change to the Emergency SOS call system that now requires users to hold the side button with the up or down volume button and then release it in order to prevent inadvertent emergency calls. The update also fixed a CarPlay bug, among other things.
  • The iPhone 5S also received a security update with iOS 12.5.7, which addresses a vulnerability that may have been actively exploited, Apple said.

Google/Android Updates

  • Google announced it’s shutting down Optimize and Optimize 360 — tools that helped marketers run A/B tests to improve their website or app’s user experience. The tools will no longer be available after September 30, 2023. However, Google clarified that Firebase A/B Testing, which is powered by Optimize and used for testing app experiences, will continue to be supported in the future and will not be impacted by this change.
  • A deadline to target the latest Android API level is arriving. Originally, Google’s deadline for developers was November 1, 2022, but it was extended to January 31, 2023 to give devs more time. The change was announced last year, when Google also said that as of November 1, 2022, existing apps that didn’t target an API level within two years of the latest major Android release version will not be available for discovery or installation for new users with devices running Android OS versions higher than apps’ target API level.



  • Netflix and Bumble partnered on a new dating app experience that lets users bond over popular TV shows. The dating app will launch a weekly Netflix question-and-answer game that users can play against their match to break the ice.

Image Credits: Bumble

  • YouTube Music launched a new beta testing program called “Listening Room,” where it invited users to try out new features. The program was almost immediately filled up.
  • Clubhouse introduced a new feature called Instant Invite, which lets users invite their friends to join House rooms and lounge conversations with a one-tap invite link. The company hopes the feature will reduce the friction involved with joining the app.


Messenger end-to-end encryption experience

Image Credits: Meta

  • Facebook Messenger expanded its tests of end-to-end encryption. The app will also allow users to take advantage of features like themes, chat emoji, reactions, group profile photos, link previews and active status while in E2EE chats. Millions of people will be alerted over the coming months as the E2EE option becomes available.
  • WhatsApp launched a beta version of its macOS app with native Apple Silicon support. Mac users with Apple’s own chip and macOS 11 Big Sur or newer will be able to try it, as well as Intel Macs that can run apps built with Catalyst.


  • Instagram introduced a new profile photo feature that lets users showcase both their profile photo and their avatar by offering an interface where you can flip between both options.
  • Meta is exploring the use of AI tools to make its ad systems less dependent on user data, after Apple’s ATT privacy changes impacted its ads business, The WSJ reported. AI tools have already helped boost Reels viewership by 20%.


  • RevenueCat released a massive report digging into data around the subscription economy, powered by its insights into 22,000 subscription-based apps. The report offers actionable insights and never-before-seen benchmarks around factors like app pricing, retention, conversion, renewals, trial strategies and much more. The whole thing is worth a look here.
  • Top U.S. banks are again planning a mobile wallet to compete with Apple Pay and PayPal, The WSJ said. The wallet will be developed by Early Warning Services, which is also behind Zelle. The banks tried and failed to get a similar initiative (CurrentC) off the ground in years past.
  • Dating app Match Group revamped its executive leadership team. Among the changes was the addition of former vice president of Product at Snap, Will Wu, who will now become Match’s CTO, in a newly created role.
  • Read-it-later app Pocket, acquired by Mozilla in 2017, revamped its mobile reading experience with new features. One addition adds more organization and recommendations to the Home tab. It’s also rebranding its “My List” tab as “Saves” and enhancing its functionality with filters and bulk edit tools. The features are launching on Android first.
  • Popular wearable Oura Ring updated its mobile app to integrate with another wearable, Apple Watch. The companion app can display info like Readiness, Activity, Sleep Scores, heart rate, body temperature, ring battery level and more, similar to the iPhone counterpart.
  • Samsung users are advised to update the Galaxy Store app on their devices due to the discovery of vulnerabilities that would allow a hacker to install any app from the store on their phone without their knowledge.
  • Uber Eats added a new feature that shows users how much of their personal information is shared with the delivery person when they place an order on the app. Uber proper already had a similar feature called “View as Driver.”
  • France’s privacy regulator, the CNIL, fined French hypercasual game developer Voodoo €3 million for violating the French Data Protection Act. The fine was issued over Voodoo’s use of the IDFV, or ID for Vendors, without user consent on iOS devices.
  • The FTC finalized a consent order settling charges that the credit services company Credit Karma had used dark patterns to misrepresent that consumers were “pre-approved” for credit card offers.
  • The FBI and DoJ are investigating Snapchat’s role in the spread of fentanyl-laced pills as part of a counterfeit drug probe underway.
  • TikTok has shifted its approach in its dealings with U.S. officials in the wake of government bans, after two years of confidential talks with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States about ByteDance’s relationship with the Chinese government, The NYT reported. The video app is now going on the PR offensive, more aggressively lobbying and speaking out more publicly, the report noted.
  • Strava, an activity tracking and social community platform used by more than 100 million people globally, acquired European 3D mapping company Fatmap for an undisclosed sum. Strava aims to integrate Fatmap’s core platform into its app eventually, but for now they’ll remain separate products.
  • Voice AI company SoundHound raised $25 million in equity from undisclosed investors after laying off 40% of staff. Part of the funding will be used to provide laid off employees with severance.

Ivory goes live

Image Credits: Tapbots

Tapbots, the makers of the popular third-party Twitter app Tweetbot that was recently killed by Twitter’s API changes, this week publicly launched the company’s next new product. Hoping to fill the void that Tweetbot leaves behind, the company is now making its anticipated Mastodon client app Ivory available on the App Store as an Early Access release.

The “Early Access” label is a subtitle that Tapbots put on its release to indicate there will still be features missing as it debuts, the company told us. However, by launching publically on the App Store, Tapbots is able to put Ivory into more people’s hands after filling up the limited number of TestFlight slots it had for its test version.

For longtime Tweetbot users, Ivory will offer a familiar experience. But instead of serving as a client for Twitter’s network, the company has now embraced the promising open source platform Mastodon. Though not quite as simple to use or understand as Twitter, Mastodon has gained traction in the months following Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter.

At launch, it sports dozens of features, ranging from support for baseline functionality to clever bells and whistles, like being able to theme the app or change its icon.

The app also supports multiple accounts, and lets you view your local and federated timelines, trending posts, post statistics, notifications and more. It also enables Mastodon-specific options that weren’t available on Twitter — like the ability to add content warnings to posts — as well as more common features, like the ability to post GIFs and polls.

There are other thoughtful touches designed to appeal to power users, too, like hashtag tracking, mute filters with regex support and timeline filters that let you show or hide posts that meet certain criteria you set. This could appeal to Mastodon’s older users, as well, who may want to mute and avoid some of the posts shared by Mastodon newcomers who are bringing Twitter’s culture to the platform, leading to unwanted posts without content warnings in their timelines.

Pestle (Update)

Image Credits: Pestle

Pestle, a handy and well-designed recipe app for iOS is getting a notable update on January 28. The app is adding a number of features for power users, including “Smart Folders,” which are automatically created folders that organize recipes based on user-set criteria, plus PDF and image import features. The latter allows users to import the recipes they had saved in other formats, while Smart Folders simplify the otherwise tedious process of organizing recipes. For instance, you could create Smart Folders that automatically add any saved recipe with a specific ingredient, or a dessert folder with additional rules. The app itself is a free download but offers subscriptions of $1.99/mo or $19.99/year (or $39.99 lifetime) for pro users.


Source link

read more

Stripe eyes an exit, Dell bets on the cloud, and Shutterstock embraces generative AI • TechCrunch


Hey, party people, it’s Kyle, continuing to step in for Greg to write Week in Review as he spends time with his newborn. Dunno about y’all, but it’s been a week. I’m dead tired and thankful it’s over. But because the news never sleeps, I’m rallying with the help of a fourth cup of coffee. Wish me luck.

I’ve talked your ears off about it at this point, but I’m under contractual obligation (not really, but still) to mention TechCrunch’s upcoming Early Stage 2023 event in Boston on April 20. The one-day summit on startups will include advice and takeaways from top experts, plus opportunities to meet fellow founders and share your own entrepreneurial experiences. Don’t miss it.

On the subject of travel, it’s not too early to start thinking about this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt 2023, which will take place in late September in San Francisco. Tickets aren’t available just yet, but they will be in the near-ish future. Sign up here for updates.

With the call to actions out of the way (phew), here’s this week in tech news!

most read

Stripe eyes an exit: Mary Ann and Natasha write that fintech startup Stripe has set a 12-month deadline for itself to go public, either through a direct listing or by pursuing a transaction on the private market. The payments giant was founded in 2010, so the fact that it’s exploring avenues for exit isn’t entirely surprising. But Stripe hasn’t been immune to the global downturn, recently laying off 14% of its staff (around 1,120 people) and slashing its internal valuation multiple times. In a twist, Stripe reportedly tried to raise at least $2 billion in capital recently, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Dell bets on the cloud: Ingrid reports that Dell is making an acquisition to beef up its cloud services business — specifically its offering in DevOps. The company is buying Cloudify, an Israeli startup that has built a platform for cloud orchestration and infrastructure automation, sources say for as much as $100 million. The purchase comes as DevOps startups continue to attract attention from investors, with venture funding in the sector reaching $4 billion in Q2 2021, according to PitchBook.

Shutterstock embraces generative AI: As part of a partnership with OpenAI, the AI startup that recently attracted a multibillion-dollar investment from Microsoft, Shutterstock this week rolled out a tool that lets customers create images based on text prompts. Powered by OpenAI’s tech, specifically DALL-E 2, the tool creates images that are “ready for licensing” after they’re made. That’s significant given that one of Shutterstock’s biggest competitors, Getty Images, is currently embroiled in a lawsuit against Stability AI — maker of another generative AI service called Stable Diffusion — over using its images to train its AI without permission from Getty or rights holders.

Bidet brand buys shower startup: Harri has the scoop on Brondell’s purchase of Nebia, the techy showerhead startup backed by Apple CEO Tim Cook and a host of other big names, including Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia. Nebia stood out when it launched with pricey nozzles that blasted users with a fine mist while conserving up to 70% of the water a typical showerhead sprays out. Co-founder Philip Winter told TechCrunch this week that Nebia’s products, including those it made with Moen, have reached more than 100,000 homes.

An AI maestro, unreleased: An impressive new AI system from Google can generate music in any genre given a text description. But the company, fearing the risks, has no immediate plans to release it. Called MusicLM, the system was trained on a dataset of 280,000 hours of music to learn to generate coherent songs for descriptions like “enchanting jazz song with a memorable saxophone solo and a solo singer” or “Berlin ’90s techno with a low bass and strong kick.” Its songs, remarkably, sound something like a human artist might compose, albeit not necessarily as inventive or musically cohesive.

No rest for Musk’s Twitter: Twitter owner and self-proclaimed “free-speech absolutist” Elon Musk is facing a legal challenge in Germany over how the platform is allegedly failing to enforce its own rules against antisemitic content, including Holocaust denial. Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany — which has strict laws prohibiting antisemitic hate speech — making the Berlin court a compelling arena to hear such a challenge. For his part, Musk has repeatedly claimed Twitter will respect all laws in the countries where it operates, including European speech laws, although he has yet to make any public comment on this specific lawsuit.

Text till you drop: Walmart recently introduced a new way to shop via chatbot. Sarah gave it a go and found that the experience leaves a lot to be desired. She writes: “It felt like the process of ordering a few basic things has become an ordeal and has taken a lot longer than the traditional method of searching in Walmart’s app and adding things to the cart. If conversational commerce like this is the future, I’d say this is very much still a work in progress.”

Flutter toward the future: Flutter, Google’s open source framework for building multiplatform apps for mobile, web and desktop, is coming along nicely. Frederic writes that at a recent conference, the tech giant highlighted the latest version of Flutter, which brings massively improved graphics performance, the ability to more easily embed Flutter code into existing web and mobile apps and support for new architectures like WebAssembly and RISC-V.

audio roundup

For your listening pleasure, TechCrunch has a crop of compelling new podcast episodes in the queue (as is the case weekly, might I add). Over at Equity, the crew took the mic to talk through deals of the week, All Raise’s CEO departure, what Google’s antitrust lawsuit means for startups, how the downturn impacted the way companies are hiring and why femtech stood out in 2022. On FoundDarrell and Becca were joined by Klarna’s co-founder and CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski to talk about how the company is expanding beyond the buy now, pay later space to become a neobank. And TC’s crypto-focused Chain Reaction spotlighted Mo Shaikh, co-founder and CEO of the layer-1 blockchain Aptos, which is building infrastructure for web3 apps and products.


TC+ subscribers get access to in-depth commentary, analysis and surveys — which you know if you’re already one. If you’re not, consider signing up. I doubt you’ll regret it. Just check out the highlights from this week:

Salesforce under siege: Salesforce finds itself under threat from activist investor Elliott Management, which announced it was taking a multibillion-dollar position in the CRM leader. Ron examines what could be next for Salesforce as the company looks to cut costs and potentially sell unprofitable pieces of the organization.

Energy transition is a winner with investors: Tim looks at investments in the energy transition, which took off last year. Businesses, financial institutions, governments and end users around the world sunk $1.11 trillion into low-carbon technologies, which was just over 30% more than 2021 and the second year in a row in which the growth rate exceeded that figure.

Increased scrutiny: Rebecca writes that startups should expect more scrutiny from VCs on their hiring plans. Startups went on a hiring spree in 2021 as VC cash flowed and the job market was hot. But many overindulged in the talent pool and then had to make large cuts and layoffs in 2022.


Source link

read more
1 2 3 4 5 6
Page 3 of 6